As the arc finishes introducing and round out the cast, there’s now a clearer sense of how things are building off the episodes that came before it. The last episode took Ogremon and his conscripts from episode five and served them up in a new and fresh way, while teasing just a little conflict between the children. Ogremon’s off licking his wound this time, so instead the conflict escalates in the form of Joe Kido, the first Chosen who straight-up doesn’t want to help. After complaining for so long about these kids being too eager and getting along too well, this is served up at just the right time. There are some curiosities about his portrayal and the episode resorts to an old formula, but it’s still just what we needed.
When Gomamon peels back the curtain to introduce Joe, he’s obsessing over studying for exams to the point of neglecting his Chosen duties. Okay… good old Joe, Joeing it up, right? Except this an introduction, where we’re pretending to meet the characters for the first time. If the show could cite original canon to establish precedent, it could easily point to tri., where he was so overwhelmed by his studies he blew off the team and Gomamon, thus demonstrating why this portrayal is consistent. But it doesn’t get to do that, and the parallel falls apart anyway.
His portrayal in tri. worked because it built off two prior seasons. We saw Joe question whether to be a doctor, commit to it, and put his heart into this pursuit several times. So we can buy it when that pursuit hits a snag and his effort to overcome it spirals into shirking his other obligations. Here, the show has to cover the equivalent of two seasons of ground-laying in a single wild monologue about how he needs to become a doctor, how he already has rivals, and how he doesn’t have time for all this world-saving business and just wants to be left alone. It’s a lot, especially when he’s only twelve years old. Not that that isn’t a thing, especially in Japan, but given how amazing everyone else looked in their debuts, to introduce Joe with this abnormally giant heap of anxiety just makes him look freaking insane.
Thankfully, freaking insane is exactly what we’ve been looking for! Joe has the kinds of obvious flaws we’ve been missing in Sora, Koshiro, and Mimi. And the internal logic makes sense: he’d rather dive into his books than accept the weird situation he’s been thrown into (a fair defense mechanism), he dismisses Taichi’s team for not having any adults he can rely on (a fair assessment), he doesn’t see why he should be responsible for saving the world (a fair question), and he takes forever to register that fulfilling that responsibility might be his only ticket home (a fair conclusion). In fact, actually saying that he wants to go home is a big step forward, a key motivation all of the others had been too occupied to concern themselves with. These are all roadblocks preventing him from joining the team, and provide a little more conflict and a little more color to this group. Even if his exact neuroses are a little much for a grade-schooler, especially compared to the others, Joe has the kinds of insecurities that remind us that these characters are, in fact, human children.
Balancing Joe out like a ramen bowl on his head, Gomamon is in classic form. While his goofy side is often the first thing people associate him with, his patience with and devotion to his partner has always been up there with the likes of Gabumon. Those are the defining traits in his introduction, helping Joe recover from a rocky arrival, checking in on him even when it’s clear his priorities are in his books, and letting Joe come around on his own terms, even if it limits his abilities in a fight. This seems to stem from an bred sense of duty as a destined partner to a Chosen child, a backstory Gomamon leans into a little more, tapping into memories Agumon and Piyomon seemed to have vague notions of.
Between Gomamon’s loyalty and Joe’s issues, you know how the episode’s going to play out: Gomamon’s going to get himself in trouble and Joe’s going to drop his complaints and help him evolve to get out of it. It’s an old, tired framework for a Digimon episode, but the first time the new series has used it in such an overt way. The last three episodes were less about the kids overcoming something and more learning to put all their faith in their Digimon. As a result, using it here feels refreshingly old school. It doesn’t reinvent anything, and it’s fair to wonder if emphasizing Joe’s study habits will sway the group dynamic enough to finally make it interesting, but the show’s taking the direction we want it to take, and that’s enough of a step forward.
My Grade: B+
- If Mimi’s going to continue the queen act, and everyone else is going to indulge her, let it be in this charming way everyone can get behind and defended with sage grandpa quotes rather than coming off as needy or demanding.
- Taichi’s reactions still feel a little too understated. Something starts shooting at Birdramon and his closest friend falls into the open ocean near it and his yell only suggests mild concern.
- Hey, Hikari’s in this episode! She doesn’t do anything, but it’s a nice refresh, especially the electrical issues affecting everything but the TV, and the transition to Koshiro watching the same newscast.
- How about Gomamon building that swanky shelter with his own two paws?
- Man, Togemon getting a little evolution sequence is only adding to the joke of Birdramon never getting one. At least Greymon’s was shorter this time.
- Along with his other foibles, there was an underlying sense of Joe feeling like all the responsibility to succeed fell on him alone. That’s part of the significance of accepting a partnership with Gomamon, but also in the battle itself when Togemon and Greymon offer heavy assistance in the final sequence against Gesomon. It would have been really cool to emphasize that by letting them land the finishing blows, but that would have probably just drawn accusations of kill-stealing.